Becca Van Tassell's Reviews > Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard to Think Straight About Animals

Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog
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Jun 13, 11

bookshelves: animals
Read from June 06 to 10, 2011

I agree with the basic premise of this book. Our attitudes about animals are logically inconsistent, and when people are extremely logically consistent, that leads to absurdity. Hypocrisy is inherent in the relationships between humans and animals, and complications are impossible to escape from.

However, this book only gets 2 stars because I don't think it was terribly well-written. It is anything but cohesive. There are hundreds of "mini-essays," each relating an anecdote, study, or philosophical idea, wrapped up with a pat conclusion. This results in incredible breadth but very little depth and sometimes patently ignoring what I see as extreme oversimplification and shoddy reasoning. Let me provide a few examples with my objections (some are pretty long, but most are short):

1. This one just seems to have so many logical flaws and unexplained assumptions that although what he is saying may be perfectly true, I just can't get past his terrible reasoning. While exploring the idea about animals living with humans because they unconditionally love us from page 79:

"If pets were so great at providing unconditional love, you would think that everyone would be bonded to the animals in their homes. (Unexplained assumption number one - that because an animal loves you unconditionally, you will necessarily bond with it). They are not. in a 1992 study, 15% of adults said they were not particularly attached to their pets. In informal polls I have taken in my class, roughly a third of my students indicate that someone in their family actively dislikes or even hates the family pet. (Assumption number two - animals provide unconditional love to everyone they meet. In my experience, it is perfectly normal for a pet to be more attached or loving to certain people in a house, usually the ones who also show it affection and take care of it). The demography of pet-keeping also presents a problem ... This view predicts that people living alone would have the most need for unconditional love and thus have the highest levels of pet ownership. (#3: WHY? because people with roommates or family already have their love quota fulfilled? #4: people always do what is statistically beneficial for them, i.e. "i live alone and have a deficiency of love so I should get a pet.")This is not the case. In fact, adults living alone have the lowest rates of pet ownership, (lots of things could contribute to this. This must include people whose lifestyles otherwise prevent pet ownership: every college-aged person in a dorm room, people who work or travel a lot, people who live in apartments by themselves that don't allow pets, which is more likely to happen if you are single, people who are allergic, etc.)while adults raising school-aged kids have the highest. (This in no way refutes the unconditional love hypothesis. Many parents get pets for their kids so that they can have that sort of relationship with a pet that includes unconditional love, as well as responsibility and kindness, and see it as beneficial to their kids all around). Interestingly, while adults with children have the highest rates of pet ownership, as a group, they are less attached to their animals than people who live along with pets. In fact, pet attachment drops a notch with each additional person added to a family. Pets in homes with young children really get the shaft. For example, only about 25% of pets in families with children are groomed every day compared to nearly 80% of pets who reside with adults who do not have kids. (There is no reason to assume that this fact is a direct cause of the nonexistence of unconditional love from a pet. People who do not have children have more time and disposable income to spend on pet grooming. They also are more likely to have a pet that requires grooming, while a family may choose a pet specifically because it is low maintenance in the grooming department. By this logic, because families with 4 children necessarily spend less time and money per child than families with 3 children, the parents with more children love each of their children less, and those children love their parents less. Very silly in my opinion.)

Phew! moving on to the shorter objections.

2. The explanations he provides about the studies he cites often either do not have enough information to make sense, or don't make sense. One such study about whether men or women have more susceptibility to the cuteness of babies and pets was summarized this way:

"Women, however, are more susceptible than men to creates that are cute. British researchers recently reported that two groups of women are particularly sensitive to differences in the cuteness of infants: those of reproductive age and those taken birth control pills that raise their levels of hormones progesterone and estrogen." These seem pretty clearly not be "two" groups of women. Women who are taking birth control pills are the same women that are of reproductive age, unless there is some new fad of seven year old girls and seventy year old women taking the pill just for the fun of it. Although not all women of reproductive age take birth control pills, one group seems to fit pretty clearly into the other, so that his suggestion that hormones such as progesterone and estrogen are the causation for this kind of behavior has some serious logical flaws and kind of just seems like a tricky way to avoid a more detailed explanation.

Mostly, though, the author bugged me by summing up what seemed like a complicated study in a few sentences, followed by the words "the research is clear that ______," when I felt like from what he said, the research was NOT clear, and his conclusion was utterly unsupported.

3. I guess this isn't really a complaint, just something I thought was funny, but he made me feel like a stereotype.

"Three out of four animal rights activists are women, and most of them are politically liberal, well-educated, solidly middle class, and primarily white. Nearly all of them have pets." p. 241

"The typical vegetarian is a liberal, white, well-educated middle- or upper-class female who is less likely than the average person to adhere to traditional values. She usually gives up red meat first, and then expands her list of rejected foods to chicken and fish, and, in the case of vegans, eggs and dairy products." p. 196

Although I ultimately agree with Herzog, this book was really an exercise in being continually annoyed by his rhetorical style. It got all of my debater dander up and within 70 pages I had to keep notes about all of the ridiculous things he said. Since I didn't know anybody physically near me who would find my complaints interesting, I channeled them into the longest review I've ever written.
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Reading Progress

06/08/2011 page 123
38.0% "I'm having trouble getting through this book, which is a bad sign because I think the subject matter is very interesting, just not that well presented so far."

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Joanna (new)

Joanna Thanks for spelling this out for me. This has been on a "maybe" list for awhile and I can see for sure from your review that it would drive me over the bend. Thank you! Other reviewers have hinted at similar feelings, but your response is most illuminating.


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